The Death of the real “Dr. Death” — Part Two

by JHS, Esq.

“Watching Florida” posted a comment in response to my prior entry about the death of Dr. Ronald Cranford that I feel deserves comment, so I am moving it into the body of this blog to assure that readers don’t overlook our exchange.

“Watching Florida” said:

Without a doubt you are a better person than I am, aren’t you. Do you feel better now? I am sure you are referring to my post which I expressed JOY that Cranford was removed from this earth. Cranford was a criminal and should have been tried accordingly and jailed. As a rule, I am not civil to criminals that co conspire to murder. I was flabbergasted at his motive in Terri’s case. Cranford was a brutal man and he was paid a lot of money to say Terri Schiavo did not have person hood which caused her barbaric death. He was paid by the same money that was to be used to rehabilitate her. Knock off the pleasantries about Cranford, you of all people should know better. I knew the State of California sent him and his black bag packing in the Wendland case but I didn’t know who made that happen. It was you and I thank you. Terri Schiavo could have used your expertise, perhaps you could have challenged Cranford when he said Terri was PVS without hope yet he was on tape telling Terri, “Good Girl, you ARE following me”. Cranford deserves nothing but contempt.

First of all, your post was only one of many I read expressing joy and relief that Dr. Cranford has died.

I had no love for the man or his deeds. 1

And yes, I could be plenty angry and bitter, as could one of my clients, Rebekah Vinson. Many people forget that I actually represented two folks in the quest to spare Robert Wendland from death: His mother, Florence, and his sister, Rebekah. Both were named parties in the lawsuit, but Florence became more well known because the media loved to fashion the story as mother vs. wife (Rose).

Florence was allowed to visit Robert at Lodi Memorial Hospital regularly, but visits with his other family members, none of whom, with the exception of his half-brother, Michael Hofer, sided with Rose, were cut off. Indeed, on the day Robert died, his mother, not his wife and children, was at his side. But it was Rebekah and other family members who were left standing in the parking lot of the hospital, distraught and despondent, as Robert lay dying inside, because Rose would not allow them to visit Robert and say their good-byes. Rose acted upon the advice and counsel of, among others, Ronald Cranford and her appellate attorney, Lawrence Nelson.

So believe me, I did not miss the irony when I read in Dr. Death’s obituary that he died with his daughters at his side, holding his hands. He was among those who were instrumental in denying such comfort and peace to Robert and his family.

But it is not my place to pass judgment on him and I will not be goaded into doing it by anyone.

I am, however, completely baffled by “Watching Florida’s” reference to the State of California sending Cranford “and his black bag packing.” That sentence reads almost as if the State pulled Cranford’s license to practice in California or something akin to that. If so, I am unaware of that occurrence. If, however, “Watching Florida” is referring to the fact that the California Supreme Court handed Cranford, et al. a huge loss about which they have all been whining ever since, that is a true statement.

I have never publicly divulged just how I secured victory for my clients in the trial court. I have no doubt in my mind, however, that Ronald Cranford, M.D. was single-handedly responsible for losing the San Joaquin County trial. And I was the one who held out the carrot that he just couldn’t resist grabbing from my hand.

I refer to it as “The Flowered Jumper Tactic.”

Ronald Cranford was nothing if not arrogant. His daughter was quoted describing his wit and down to earth nature. In reality, he knew how to turn on the Marcus Welby-esque persona in order to manipulate and maneuver people into believing him. He would look at you very kindly over his half-glasses while shaking your hand and patting your shoulder. But it was an act. He had an agenda and his intentions were purely evil.

He pontificated on the witness stand in Stockton for two full days. Called to testify by Rose’s attorney, who was presenting his case in tandem with the attorney who was appointed to safeguard Robert’s interests, but ended up advocating for his death, as well, Cranford was allowed to ramble on and on and on.

Finally, my opportunity to cross-examine him came. Just as I was about to begin my questioning, he smiled at me over those half-glasses and actually had the gall to wink at me as he said, “Ok, come on, let me have it.”

He might as well have waved a red flag in front of a bull. Talk about the ultimate act of belittlement, chauvinism, and arrogance. People in the courtroom sat in stunned silence.

My husband, knowing full well what reaction Cranford wrought with that maneuver, just put his head in his hands and shook it from side to side, as if to say, “Oh, you poor bastard . . . you have no idea what you just did.”

I scored some early points in my cross-examination, but then things began to look a bit more dreary as he became used to my rhythm and approach. I was wracking my brain trying to figure out how I was going to get him to say the things that I needed him to say in order to win the case. Because I knew that if I could just get him to really open up, his arrogance would take over and he wouldn’t be able to stop himself . . . he would talk the other side right out of their case, thereby playing right into my hands.

But how to get him to do it?

The next morning, as I stood in my closet wondering what to wear to court and fuming as I thought about that mysogynistic wink, it dawned on me that I had to change my entire demeanor. I was acting far too much like a lawyer. I had to dumb myself down and let his ego take over. In short, I had to, as my good friend Clint Ritchie likes to say, when he really wants to get under my skin, “get girlie.” I don’t do “girlie.”

But I knew that for one day, I had to make an exception.

So . . . I went into my closet and pulled out the most “girlie” ensemble I owned. It was a brightly flowered rayon jumper, with a white crepe blouse under it. The blouse had three quarter length sleeves and a collar with very wide lace. It was a very lovely outfit that I would normally never wear to court, a deposition, or in any other professional setting. I had purchased it a couple of years earlier to wear to a friend’s wedding reception and I wore it only to such social events or, perhaps, church.

I can still see the looks on my stunned clients’ faces when I came into the courtroom. They were in shock because they had never seen me wear such an outfit before. But they were too polite to inquire. So I just took them aside and said, “Hey, it might not work, but just go with me on this.” Even the judge did a double-take when he took the bench and I heard the two other lawyers snickering about my lack of courtroom fashion sense.

I completely changed my questioning style and began firing open-ended questions at Cranford. Questions that I knew he would love to answer. I also knew that the other two attorneys would be delighted not to object. They mistakenly believed that if they didn’t object, Cranford would continue educating the court and secure a victory for them.

They completely underestimated the size of Cranford’s ego and the extent of his “God complex.” But I didn’t.

Cranford’s testimony is what lost the case for Rose Wendland — all because he couldn’t wait to educate the female attorney who couldn’t even show up for court attired appropriately.2 I held out the carrot — and he took it. And I quoted Cranford verbatim in every appellate brief I filed, making sure that his words were not lost on the justices who were going to decide Robert’s fate. Especially the one sentence that Cranford could not stop himself from uttering that belied his real agenda and motivation: “Robert needs to die so his family can grieve.” I shoved that sentence back in his face over and over, every chance I got.

And after I knew that I had succeeded in my mission to get Cranford to expound to the point that he lost the case for Rose Wendland, I went home, took off the now-infamous flowered jumper, put it in the box destined for Good Will, and never looked at or wore it again.

I don’t know where Dr. Death, as Cranford enjoyed calling himself, is tonight. Frankly, I don’t really care. His ultimate destination is between him and his maker. I had no love for the man and am glad that he is no longer able to bring about the death of innocent disabled persons such as Terri Schiavo.

But I will not lower myself to Munchkin-like (“Ding dong, the witch is dead . . .”) glee.

Why? Not because I’m such a great person. I’m no saint.

But I will not devalue his life or his inherent value as a human being. To do so would accomplish nothing except make me feel like a hypocrite in the first order. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”


  1. See “What’s In a Name?”
  2. The testimony is set forth in “What’s in a Name?”
WatchingFlorida June 4, 2006 at 6:57 am

Ah, there you go, the real Doctor Humane Death Cranford that you sent packing, head first.

“But I will not devalue his life or his inherent value as a human being. To do so would accomplish nothing except make me feel like a hypocrite in the first order. “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Devalue his life? Hardly. Most criminals like Dr. Death go to prison for life, he just happened to die. In both instances he has been removed from society so he cannot rob the life of innocents. He is a criminal and I Thank God he is gone. It most certainly is a “gleeful” occasion for those that wish to live.

Funny, a friend of mind actually sang the “Ding-Dong-the witch is dead” tune.

Cranford is no more deserving than Charlie Manson. The difference is Cranford had a better suit and wingtip shoes.

Thank you for your thoughts. It is an honor to post on your blog and to read your thoughts. You are a Hero to many, including me.

All my best,

The Munchkin

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